Friday, March 23, 2012

Suwannee River: Becoming Coastal

On the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a summary for Friday morning, March 23.

"Sandy Bottom and SOS stopped at Branford at 7:30 p.m. last night [Thursday] and spent approximately 12 hours there, re-launching on the Suwannee at about 7:30 a.m. [Friday].  They covered about 55 miles on Thursday. They are about 75 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 90 miles from the last checkpoint at Cedar Key.

As of 8:30 a.m., Mosquito Magnet's last SPOT track shows him a few miles down the Suwannee from the put-in at Fargo. According to the SPOT he's been there since 10 p.m. It is unclear whether this is his real position and he is camping or his SPOT is malfunctioning. From that position he is about 218 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 143 miles from Branford, where Sandy Bottom and SOS spent the night.

Riverslayer and Whale stopped on the portage sometime around midnight. They are only a few miles from Fargo and should be quickly across the rest of the portage this morning sometime. As of 8:30 a.m. they were still stopped.

Conditions along the course look good. The high temperature is forecast at 86 degrees with lows tonight in the mid-60s. The forecast again calls for isolated T-storms and a 30 percent chance of showers.

Although all the challengers will soon be on t he Suwannee there is a significant difference between the upper Suwannee where Mosquito Magnet, Riverslayer, and Whale are (or will soon be) and the Lower Suwannee where Sandy Bottom and SOS are. As they continue to move downriver, Sandy Bottom and SOS will have fewer good places to camp as the river widens and the banks become soggy and swampy. There are boat ramps that could provide an emergency camp stop, but they are going to have to plan carefully to avoid getting caught in an area with no decent landing place. Also, as they approach the Gulf the tide will become a factor in the river. Sandy Bottom and SOS are probably already monitoring the wind conditions in the Gulf and have identified the windows available to ride tthe outgoing tide from the Suwannee into the Gulf.

As for the three other challengers, they will enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of the Florida Challenge today. The Upper Suwannee is fantastic, with wide, white sand banks on many bends, towering oaks and cypress drapped thick with Spanish moss, and a decent downriver flow. Watch their speed, all three will likely begin to fly downriver. One major obstacle is Big Shoals, about 46 miles below Fargo. Sandy Bottom and SOS wisely portaged around the rapids. We'll see if the others do too. Riverslayer knows the Suwannee very well, so it will be interesting to see if he portages or tries to run the rapids. Either way it should be a fast day on the water for all three."

Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.

Tides for the mouth of the Suwannee River

Friday 23rd
High   3:10 AM      3.0' 
Low   9:25 AM      0.4'
High   3:06 PM      3.2'
Low   9:53 PM     -0.3'

Saturday 24th
High   3:45 AM     2.9' 
Low   9:51 AM     0.5'
High   3:30 PM     3.3'
Low 10:25 PM    -0.3'

Sunday 25th
High   4:20 AM     2.8'
Low 10:17 AM     0.7'
High   3:55 PM     3.3'
Low 10:58 PM    -0.3'

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